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Fathers of the Church



The Prefaces fall under three heads: 1. Those prefixed to Jerome's early works bearing on Church history or Scripture. 2. The Prefaces to the Vulgate translation. 3. Those prefixed to the Commentaries.


The Prefaces to Jerome's works have in many cases a special value. This value is sometimes personal; they are the free expressions of his feelings to those whom he trusts. Sometimes it lies in the mention of particular events; sometimes in showing the special difficulties he encountered as a translator, or the state of mind of those for whom he wrote; sometimes in making us understand the extent and limits of his own knowledge, and the views on points such as the inspiration of Scripture which actuated him as a translator or commentator; sometimes, again, in the particular interpretations which he gives. These things gain a great importance from the fact that Jerome's influence and that of his Vulgate was preponderant in Western Europe for more than a thousand years.

We [the original Editors] have had to make a selection, not only from want of space, but also because the Prefaces are of very unequal value, and sometimes are mere repetitions of previous statements. We have therefore given specimens of each class of Preface; we have given also all which bears on the better understanding of the life and views of Jerome; but where a Preface repeats what has been said before, or where it gives facts or interpretations which are well known or of no particular value, we have contented ourselves with a short statement of its contents.

by Jerome in Various | translated by W. H. Fremantle, M.A. With the Assistance of G. Lewis, M.A. and Rev. W. G. Martley, M.A



Jerome to his friends Vincentius and Gallienus, Greeting:

1. It has long been the practice of learned men to exercise their minds by rendering into Latin the works of Greek writers, and, what is more difficult, to translate the poems of illustrious authors though trammelled by the farther requirements of verse. It was thus that our Tully literally translated whole books of Plato; and after publishing an edition of Aratus (who may now be considered a Roman) in hexameter verse, he amused himself with the economics of Xenophon. In this latter work the golden river of eloquence again and again meets with obstacles, around which its waters break and foam to such an extent that persons unacquainted with the original would not believe they were reading Cicero's words. And no wonder! It is hard to follow another man's lines and everywhere keep within bounds. It is an arduous task to preserve felicity and grace unimpaired in a translation. Some word has forcibly expressed a given thought; I have no word of my own to convey the meaning; and while I am seeking to satisfy the sense I may go a long way round and accomplish but a small distance of my journey. Then we must take into account the ins and outs of transposition, the variations in cases, the diversity of figures, and, lastly, the peculiar, and, so to speak, the native idiom of the language. A literal translation sounds absurd; if, on the other hand, I am obliged to change either the order or the words themselves, I shall appear to have forsaken the duty of a translator.

2. So, my dear Vincentius, and you, Gallienus, whom I love as my own soul, I beseech you, whatever may be the value of this hurried piece of work, to read it with the feelings of a friend rather than with those of a critic. And I ask this all the more earnestly because, as you know, I dictated with great rapidity to my amanuensis; and how difficult the task is, the sacred records testify; for the old flavour is not preserved in the Greek version by the Seventy. It was this that stimulated Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion; and the result of their labors was to impart a totally different character to one and the same work; one strove to give word for word, another the general meaning, while the third desired to avoid any great divergency from the ancients. A fifth, sixth, and seventh edition, though no one knows to what authors they are to be attributed, exhibit so pleasing a variety of their own that, in spite of their being anonymous, they have won an authoritative position. Hence, some go so far as to consider the sacred writings somewhat harsh and grating to the ear; which arises from the fact that the persons of whom I speak are not aware that the writings in question are a translation from the Hebrew, and therefore, looking at the surface not at the substance, they shudder at the squalid dress before they discover the fair body which the language clothes. In fact, what can be more musical than the Psalter? Like the writings of our own Flaccus and the Grecian Pindar it now trips along in iambics, now flows in sonorous alcaics, now swells into sapphics, now marches in half-foot metre. What can be more lovely than the strains of Deuteronomy and Isaiah? What more grave than Solomon's words? What more finished than Job? All these, as Josephus and Origen tell us, were composed in hexameters and pentameters, and so circulated amongst their own people. When we read these in Greek they have some meaning; when in Latin they are utterly incoherent. But if any one thinks that the grace of language does not suffer through translation, let him render Homer word for word into Latin. I will go farther and say that, if he will translate this author into the prose of his own language, the order of! the words will seem ridiculous, and the most eloquent of poets almost dumb.

3. What is the drift of all this? I would not have you think it strange if here and there we stumble; if the language lag; if it bristle with consonants or present gaping chasms of vowels; or be cramped by condensation of the narrative. The most learned among men have toiled at the same task; and in addition to the difficulty which all experience, and which we have alleged to attend all translation, it must not be forgotten that a peculiar difficulty besets us, inasmuch as the history is manifold, is full of barbarous names, circumstances of which the Latins know nothing, dates which are tangled knots, critical marks blended alike with the events and the numbers, so that it is almost harder to discern the sequence of the words than to come to a knowledge of what is related.

[Here follows a long passage showing an arrangement according to which the dates are distinguished by certain colours as belonging to one or another of the kingdoms, the history of which is dealt with. This passage seems unintelligible in the absence of the coloured figures, and would be of no use unless the book with its original arrangement were being studied.]

I am well aware that there will be many who, with their customary fondness for universal detraction (from which the only escape is by writing nothing at all), will drive their fangs into this volume. They will cavil at the dates, change the order, impugn the accuracy of events, winnow the syllables, and, as is very frequently the case, will impute the negligence of copyists to the authors. I should be within my right if I were to rebut them by saying that they need not read unless they choose; but I would rather send them away in a calm state of mind, so that they may attribute to the Greek author the credit which is his due, and may recognize that any insertions for which we are responsible have been taken from other men of the highest repute. The truth is that I have partly discharged the office of a translator and partly that of a writer. I have with the utmost fidelity rendered the Greek portion, and at the same thee have added certain things which appeared to me to have been allowed to slip, particularly in the Roman history, which Eusebius, the author of this book, as it seems to me, only glanced at; not so much because of ignorance, for he was a learned man, as because, writing in Greek, he thought them of slight importance to his countrymen. So again from Ninus and Abraham, right up to the captivity of Troy, the translation is from the Greek only. From Troy to the twentieth year of Constantine there is much, at one thee separately added, at another intermingled, which I have gleaned with great diligence from Tranquillus and other famous historians. Moreover, the portion from the aforesaid year of Constantine to the sixth consulship of the Emperor Valens and the second of Valentinianus is entirely my own. Content to end here, I have reserved the remaining period, that of Gratianus and Theodosius, for a wider historical survey; not that I am afraid to discuss the living freely and truthfully, for the fear of God banishes the fear of man; but because while our country is still exposed to the fury of the barbarians everything is in confusion.


Jerome to the most holy Pope Damasus:

Origen, whilst in his other books he has surpassed all others, has in the Song of Songs surpassed himself. He wrote ten volumes upon it, which amount to almost twenty thousand lines, and in these he discussed, first the version of the Seventy Translators, then those of Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion, and lastly, a fifth version which he states that he found on the coast of Atrium, with such magnificence and fulness, that he appears to me to have realized what is said in the poem: "The king brought me into his chamber." I have left that work on one side, since it would require almost boundless leisure and labour and money to translate so great a work into Latin, even if it could be worthily done; and I have translated these two short treatises, which he composed in the form of daily lectures for those who were still like babes and sucklings, and I have studied faithfulness rather than elegance. You can conceive how great a value the larger work possesses, when the smaller gives you such satisfaction.


Philo, the most erudite man among the Jews, is declared by Origen to have done what I am now doing; he set forth a book of Hebrew Names, classing them under their initial letters, and placing the etymology of each at the side. This work I originally proposed to translate into Latin. It is well known in the Greek world, and is to be found in all libraries. But I found that the copies were so discordant to one another, and the order so I confused, that I judged it to be better to say nothing, rather than to write what would justly be condemned. A work of this kind, however, appeared likely to be of use; and my friends Lupulianus and Valerianus urged me to attempt it, because, as they thought, I had made some progress in the knowledge of Hebrew. I, therefore, went through all the books of Scripture in order, and in the restoration which I have now made of the ancient fabric, I think that I have produced a work which may be found valuable by Greeks as well as Latins.

I here in the Preface beg the reader to take notice that, if he finds anything omitted in this work, it is reserved for mention in another. I have at this moment on hand a book of Hebrew Questions, an undertaking of a new kind such as has never until now been heard of amongst either the Greeks or the Latins. I say this, not with a view of arrogantly puffing up my own work, but because I know how much labour I have spent on it, and wish to provoke those whose knowledge is deficient to read it. I recommend all those who wish to possess both that work and the present one, and also the book of Hebrew Places, which I am about to publish, to make no account of the Jews and all their ebullitions of vexation. Moreover, I have added the meaning of the words and names in the New Testament, so that the fabric might receive its last touch and might stand complete. I wished also in this to imitate Origen, whom all but the ignorant acknowledge as the greatest teacher of the Churches next to the Apostles; for in this work, which stands among the noblest monuments of his genius, he endeavoured as a Christian to supply what Philo, as a Jew, had omitted.


Eusebius, who took his second name from the blessed Martyr Pamphilus, after he had written the ten books of his" Ecclesiastical History," the Chronicle of Dates, of which I published a Latin version, the book in which he set forth the names of the different nations and those given to them of old by the Jews and by those of the present day, the topography of the and of Juda and the portions allotted to the tribes, together with a representation of Jerusalem itself and its temple, which he accompanied with a very short explanation, bestowed his about at the end of his life upon this little work, of which the design is to gather for us out of the Holy Scriptures the names of almost ill the cities, mountains, rivers, hamlets, and other places, whether they remain the same or have since been changed or in some degree corrupted. I have taken up the work of this admirable man, and have translated it, following-he arrangement of the Greeks, and taking the words in the order of their initial letters, but leaving out those names which did not seem worthy of mention, and making a considerable number of alterations. I have explained my method once for all in the Preface to my translation of the Chronicle, where I said that I might be called at once a translator and the composer of a new work; but I repeat this especially because one who had hardly the first tincture of letters has ventured upon a translation of this very book into Latin, though his language is hardly to be called Latin. His lack of scholarship will be seen by the observant reader as soon as he compares it with my translation. I do not pretend to a style which soars to the skies; but I hope that I can rise above one which grovels on the earth.


The object of the Preface to a book is to set forth the argument of the work which follows; but I am compelled to begin by answering what has been said against me. My case is somewhat like that of Terence, who turned the scenic prologues of his plays into a defence of himself. We have a Luscius Lanuvinus, like the one who worried him, and who brought charges against the poet as if he had been a plunderer of the treasury. The bard of Mantua suffered in the same way; he had translated a few verses of Homer very exactly, and they said that he was nothing but a plagiarist from the ancients. But he answered them that it was no small proof of strength to wrest the club of Hercules from his hands. Why, even Tully, who stands on the pinnacle of Roman eloquence, that king of orators and glory of the Latin tongue, has actions for embezzlement brought against him by the Greeks. I cannot, therefore, be surprised if a poor little fellow like me is exposed to the gruntings of vile swine who trample our pearls Tinder their feet, when some of the most learned of men, men whose glory ought to have hushed the voice of ill will, have felt the flames of envy. It is true, this happened by a kind of justice to men whose eloquence had filled with its resonance the theatres and the senate, the public assembly and the rostra; hardihood always courts detraction, and (as Horace says):

"The highest peaks invoke The lightning's stroke."

But I am in a corner, remote from the city and the forum, and the wranglings of crowded courts; yet, even so (as Quintilian says) ill-will has sought me out. Therefore, I beseech the reader,

"If one there be, if one. Who, rapt by strong desire, these lines shall read,"

not to expect eloquence or oratorical grace in those Books of Hebrew Questions, which I propose to write on all the sacred books; but rather, that he should himself answer my detractors for me, and tell them that a work of a new kind can claim some indulgence. I am poor and of low estate; I neither possess riches nor do I think it right to accept them if they are offered me; and, similarly, let me tell them that it is impossible for them to have the riches of Christ, that is, the knowledge of the Scriptures, and the world's riches as well. It will be my simple aim, therefore, first, to point out the mistakes of those who suspect some fault in the Hebrew Scriptures, and, secondly, to correct the faults, which evidently teem in the Greek and Latin copies, by a reference to the original authority; and, further, to explain the etymology of things, names, and countries, when it is not apparent from the sound of the Latin words, by giving a paraphrase in the vulgar tongue. To enable the student more easily to take note of these emendations, I propose, in the first place, to set out the true reading itself, as I am now able to do, and then, by bringing the later readings into comparison with it, toindicate what has been omitted or added or altered. It is not my purpose, as snarling ill-will pretends, to convict the LXX. of error, nor do I look upon my own labour as a disparagement of theirs. The fact is that they, since their work was undertaken for King Ptolemy of Alexandria, did not choose to bring to light all the mysteries which the sacred writings contain, and especially those which give the promise of the advent of Christ, for fear that he who held the Jews in esteem because they were believed to worship one God, would come to think that they worshipped a second. But we find that the Evangelists, and even our Lord and Saviour, and the Apostle Paul, also, bring forward many citations as coming from the Old Testament which are not contained in our copies; and on these I shall dilate more fully in their proper places. But it is clear from this fact that those are the best MSS. which most correspond with the authoritative words of the New Testament. Add to this that Josephus, who gives the story of the Seventy Translators, reports them as translating only the five books of Moses; and we also acknowledge that these are more in harmony with the Hebrew than the rest. And, further, those who afterward came into the field as translators —I mean Aquila and Symmachus and Theodotion—give a version very different from that which we use.

I have but one word more to say, and it may calm my detractors. Foreign goods are to be imported only to the regions where there is a demand for them. Country people are not obliged to buy balsam, pepper, and dates. As to Origen, I say nothing. His name (if I may compare small things with great) is even more than my own the object of ill-will, because, though following the common version in his Homilies, which were spoken to common people, yet, in his Tomes, that is, in his fuller discussion of Scripture, he yields to the Hebrew as the truth, and, though surrounded by his own forces, occasionally seeks the foreign tongue as his ally. I will only say this about him: that I should gladly have his knowledge of the Scriptures, even if accompanied with all the ill-will which clings to his name, and that I do not care a straw for these shades and spectral ghosts, whose nature is said to be to chatter in dark corners and be a terror to babies.


[Addressed to Paula and Eustochium, Bethlehem, A.D. 388.]

I remember that, about five years ago, when I was still living at Rome, I read Ecclesiastes to the saintly Blesilla, so that I might provoke her to the contempt of this earthly scene, and to count as nothing all that she saw in the world; and that she asked me to throw my remarks upon all the more obscure passages into the form of a short commentary, so that, when I was absent, she might still understand what she read She was withdrawn from us by her sudden death, while girding herself for our work; we were not counted worthy to have such an one as the partner of our life; and, therefore, Paula and Eustochium, I kept silence under the stroke of such a wound. But now, living as I do in the smaller community of Bethlehem, I pay what I owe to her memory and to you. I would only point out this, that I have followed no one's authority. I have translated direct from the Hebrew, adapting my words as much as possible to the form of the Septuagint, but only in those places in which they did not diverge far from the Hebrew. I have occasionally referred also to the versions of Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion, but so as not to alarm the zealous student by too many novelties, nor yet to let my commentary follow the side streams of opinion, turning aside, against my conscientious conviction, from the fountainhead of truth.


[This version was made at Rome between the years 382 and 385. The only Preface remaining is that to the translation of the Gospels, but Jerome speaks of, and quotes from, his version of the other parts also. The work was undertaken at the request and under the sanction of Pope Damasus, who had consulted Jerome in A.D, 383 on certain points of Scriptural criticism and apparently in the same year urged him to revise the current Latin version by help of the Greek original. It is to be observed that Jerome's aim was "to revise the old Latin," and not to make a new version. When Augustin expressed to him his gratitude for 'his translation of the Gospels,' he tacitly corrected him by substituting for this phrase 'the correction of the New Testament.' Yet, although he proposed to himself this limited object, the various forms of corruption which had been introduced were, as he describes, so numerous that the difference of the old and revised (Hieronymian) text is throughout clear and striking." See article by Westcott in " Dictionary of Bible," on the Vulgate, and Fremantle's article on Jerome in "Dictionary of Christian Bibliography."]


[Addressed to Pope Damasus, A.D. 383.]

You urge me to revise the old Latin version, and, as it were, to sit in judgment on the copies of the Scriptures which are now scattered throughout the whole world; and, inasmuch as they differ from one another, you would have me decide which of them agree with the Greek original. The labour is one of love, but at the same time both perilous and presumptuous; for in judging others I must be content to be judged by all; and how can I dare to change the language of the world in its hoary old age, and carry it back to the early days of its infancy? Is there a man, learned or unlearned, who will not, when he takes the volume into his hands, and perceives that what he reads does not suit his settled tastes, break out immediately into violent language, and call me a forger and a profane person for having the audacity to add anything to the ancient books, or to make any changes or corrections therein? Now there are two consoling reflections which enable me to bear the odium—in the first place, the command is given by you who are the supreme bishop; and secondly, even on the showing of those who revile us, readings at variance with the early copies cannot be right. For if we are to pin our faith to the Latin texts, it is for our opponents to tell us which; for there are almost as many forms of texts as there are copies. If, on the other hand, we are to glean the truth from a comparison of many, why not go back to the original Greek and correct the mistakes introduced by inaccurate translators, and the blundering alterations of confident but ignorant critics, and, further, all that has been inserted or changed by copyists more asleep than awake? I am not discussing the Old Testament, which was turned into Greek by the Seventy elders, and has reached us by a descent of three steps. I do not ask what Aquila and Symmachus think, or why Theodotion takes a middle course between the ancients and the moderns. I am willing to let that be the true translation which had apostolic approval. I am now speaking of the New Testament. This was undoubtedly composed in Greek, with the exception of the work of Matthew the Apostle, who was the first to commit to writing the Gospel of Christ, and who published his work in Judaea in Hebrew characters. We must confess that as we have it in our language it is marked by discrepancies, and now that the stream is distributed into different channels we must go back to the fountainhead. I pass over those manuscripts which are associated with the names of Lucian and Hesychius, and the authority of which is perversely maintained by a handful of disputatious persons. It is obvious that these writers could not amend anything in the Old Testament after the labours of the Seventy; and it was useless to correct the New, for versions of Scripture which already exist in the languages of many nations show that their additions are false. I therefore promise in this short Preface the four Gospels only, which are to be taken in the following order, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, as they have been revised by a comparison of the Greek manuscripts. Only early ones have been used. But to avoid any great divergences from the Latin which we are accustomed to read, I have used my pen with some restraint, and while I have corrected only such passages as seemed to convey a different meaning, I have allowed the rest to remain as they are.

[The Preface concludes with a description of lists of words made by Eusebius and translated by Jerome, designed to show what passages occur in two or more of the Gospels.]


[This version was not undertaken with ecclesiastical sanction as was the case with the Gospels, but at the request of private friends, or from Jerome's "own sense of the imperious necessity of the work." It was wholly made at Bethlehem and was begun about A.D. 391, and finished about A.D. 404. The approximate dates of the several books are given before each Preface in the following pages.]


[This Preface was addressed to Desiderius, but which of the three correspondents of Jerome who bore this name is uncertain (See Article Desiderius in Smith and Wace's "Dictionary of Christian Biography"). We do not give it because it has been given at length as a specimen of the rest, in Jerome's "Apology," book ii., vol. iii. of this series, pp. 515-516). Jerome in it complains that he is accused of forging a new version. He justifies his undertaking by showing that in the versions then current many passages were left out (though they exist in our copies of the LXX.), such as "Out of Egypt" (Hos. xi. 1); "They shall look on him whom they pierced " (Zech. xii. 10), etc., which are quoted in the New Testament and are found in the Hebrew. He accounts for these omissions by the suggestion that the LXX. were afraid of offending Ptolemy Lagus for whom they worked, and who was a Platonist. He rejects the fable of the LXX. being shut up in separate cells and producing an identical version, and protests against the notion that they were inspired, and he urges his calumniators, by applying to those who knew Hebrew, to test the correctness of his version.

There is no Preface to the other books of the Pentateuch. From the allusion to the work on the Pentateuch as lately finished, in the Preface to Joshua, which was published in 404, it is presumed that the date of the translation of the Pentateuch is 403.]


[The Preface to these books was written A.D. 404; Jerome speaks of the death of Paula, which took place in that year, and the work is addressed to Eustochium alone The Preface is chiefly occupied with a defence of his translation. He tells those who carp at it that they are not bound to read it, and mentions that the Church had given no final sanction to the LXX., but read the book of Daniel in Theodotion's version. The books of Joshua, Judges, and Ruth, were probably the last of the Vulgate translation; the Preface declares Jerome's intention of devoting himself henceforward to the Commentaries on the Prophets, a work which took up the remainder of his life.]


[This Preface was the first in order of publication. It was set forth as an exposition of the principles adopted by Jerome in all his translations from the Hebrew—the "Helmeted Preface," as he calls it in the beginning of the last paragraph—with which he was prepared to do battle against all who impugn his design and methods. It was addressed to Paula and Eustochium, and published about A. D. 391.]

That the Hebrews have twenty-two letters is testified by the Syrian and Chaldaean languages which are nearly related to the Hebrew, for they have twenty—two elementary sounds which are pronounced the same way, but are differently written. The Samaritans also employ just the same number of letters in their copies of the Pentateuch of Moses and differ only in the shape and outline of the letters. And it is certain that Esdras, the scribe and teacher of the law, after the capture of Jerusalem and the restoration of the temple by Zerubbabel, invented other letters which we now use, although up to that time the Samaritan and Hebrew characters were the same. In the book of Numbers, also, where we have the census of the Levites and priests, the mystic teaching of Scripture conducts us to the same result. And we find the four-lettered name of the Lord in certain Greek books written to this day in the ancient characters. The thirty-seventh Psalm, moreover, the one hundred and eleventh, the one hundred and twelfth, the one hundred and nineteenth and the one hundred and forty-fifth, although they are written in different metres, have for their acrostic framework au alphabet of the same number of letters, The Lamentations of Jeremiah, and his Prayer, the Proverbs of Solomon also, towards the end, from the place where we read "Who will find a brave woman?" are instances of the same number of letters forming the division into sections. And, again, five are double letters, viz., Caph, Mem, Nun, Phe, Sade, for at the beginning and in the middle of words they are written one way, and at the end another way. Whence it happens that, by most people, five of the books are reckoned as double, viz., Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Ezra, Jeremiah, with Kinoth, i.e., his Lamentations. As, then, there are twenty-two elementary characters by means of which we write in Hebrew all we say, and the compass of the human voice is contained within their limits, so we reckon twenty-two books, by which, as by the alphabet of the doctrine of God, a righteous man is instructed in tender infancy, and, as it were, while still at the breast.

The first of these books is called Bresith, to which we give the name Genesis. The second, Elle Smoth, which bears the name Exodus; the third, Vaiecra, that is Leviticus; the fourth, Vaiedabber, which we call Numbers; the fifth, Elle Addabarim, which is entitled Deuteronomy. These are the five books of Moses, which they properly call Thorath, that is law.

The second class is composed of the Prophets, and they begin with Jesus the son of Nave, who among them is called Joshua the son of Nun. Next in the series is Sophtim, that is the book of Judges; and in the same book they include Ruth, because the events narrated occurred in the days of the Judges. Then comes Samuel, which we call First and Second Kings. The fourth is Malachim, that is, Kings, which is contained in the third and fourth volumes of Kings. And it is far better to say Malachim, that is Kings, than Malachoth, that is Kingdoms. For the author does not describe the Kingdoms of many nations, but that of one people, the people of Israel, which is comprised in the twelve tribes. The fifth is Isaiah, the sixth, Jeremiah, the seventh, Ezekiel, the eighth is the book of the Twelve Prophets, which is called among the Jews Thare Asra.

To the third class belong the Hagiographa, of which the first book begins with Job, the second with David, whose writings they divide into five parts and comprise in one volume of Psalms; the third is Solomon, in three books, Proverbs, which they call Parables, that is Masaloth, Ecclesiastes, that is Coeleth, the Song of Songs, which they denote by the title Sir Assiriim; the sixth is Daniel; the seventh, Dabre Aiamim, that is, Words of Days, which we may more expressively call a chronicle of the whole of the sacred history, the book that amongst us is called First and Second Chronicles; the eighth, Ezra, which itself is likewise divided amongst Greeks and Latins into two books; the ninth is Esther.

And so there are also twenty-two books of the Old Testament; that is, five of Moses, eight of the prophets, nine of the Hagiographa, though some include Ruth and Kinoth (Lamentations) amongst the Hagiographa, and think that these books ought to be reckoned separately; we should thus have twenty-four books of the old law. And these the Apocalypse of John represents by the twenty-four elders, who adore the Lamb, and with downcast looks offer their crowns, while in their presence stand the four living creatures with eyes before and behind, that is, looking to the past and the future, and with unwearied voice crying, Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, who west, and art, and art to come.

This preface to the Scriptures may serve as a " helmeted " introduction to all the books which we turn from Hebrew into Latin, so that we may be assured that what is not found in our list must be placed amongst the Apocryphal writings. Wisdom, therefore, which generally bears the name of Solomon, and the book of Jesus, the Son of Sirach, and Judith, and Tobias, and the Shepherd are not in the canon. The first book of Maccabees I have found to be Hebrew, the second is Greek, as can be proved from the very style. Seeing that all this is so, I beseech you, my reader, not to think that my labours are in any sense intended to disparage the old translators. For the service of the tabernacle of God each one offers what he can; some gold and silver and precious stones, others linen and blue and purple and scarlet; we shall do well if we offer skins and goats' hair. And yet the Apostle pronounces our more contemptible parts more necessary than others. Accordingly, the beauty of the tabernacle as a whole and in its several kinds (and the ornaments of the church present and future) was covered with skins and goats'-hair cloths, and the heat of the sun and the injurious rain were warded off by those things which are of less account. First read, then, my Samuel and Kings; mine, I say, mine. For whatever by diligent translation and by anxious emendation we have learnt and made our own, is ours. And when you understand that whereof you were before ignorant, either, if you are grateful, reckon me a translator, or, if ungrateful, a paraphraser, albeit I am not in the least conscious of having deviated from the Hebrew original. At all events, if you are incredulous, read the Greek and Latin manuscripts and compare them with these poor efforts of mine, and wherever you see they disagree, ask some Hebrew (though you ought rather to place confidence in me), and if he confirm our view, I suppose you will not think him a soothsayer and suppose that he and I have, in rendering the same passage, divined alike. But I ask you also, the handmaidens of Christ, who anoint the head of your reclining Lord with the most precious ointment of faith, who by no means seek the Saviour in the tomb, for whom Christ has long since ascended to the Father—I beg you to confront with the shields of your prayers the mad dogs who bark and rage against me, and go about the city, and think themselves learned if they disparage others. I, knowing my lowliness, will always remember what we are told. "I said, I will take heed to my ways that I offend not in my tongue. I have set a guard upon my mouth while the sinner standeth against me. I became dumb, and was hum. bled, and kept silence from good words."


[This Preface is almost wholly a repetition of the arguments adduced in the Preface to Genesis. It is addressed to Chromatius, bishop of Aquileia, who took great interest in the work and provided funds forits continuance. The date is A.D. 395.]


[This Preface is addressed to Domnio (a Roman presbyter. See Letters L., and XLVII. 3, Paulinus, Ep. 3) and Rogatianus, of whom nothing is known. It was written A. D, 394. It is a repetition of his constant ground of self- defence, and contains a noble expression of his determination to carry the work through. "The serpent may hiss, and

"'Victorious Sinon hurl his brand of fire,'

but never shall my mouth be closed. Cut off my tongue; it will still stammer out something. "]


[To Paula and Eustochium, early in 404. Merely assures them that he is acting as a faithful translator, adding nothing of his own; whereas in the version then in common use (vulgata), the book is drawn out into all kinds of perplexing entanglements of language."]


[This was put into circulation about the same time as the sixteen prophets, that is, about the year 393. It was written in 392. It has no dedication, but is full of personal interest, and shows the deplorable state in which the text of many parts of Scripture was before his time, thus justifying his boast, "I have rescued Job from the dunghill."]

I am compelled at every step in my treatment of the books of Holy Scripture to reply to the abuse of my opponents who charge my translation with being a censure of the Seventy; as though Aquila among Greek authors, and Symmachus and Theodotion, had not rendered word for word, or paraphrased, or combined the two methods in a sort of translation which is neither the one nor the other; and as though Origen had not marked all the books of the Old Testament with obeli and asterisks, which he either introduced or adopted from Theodotion, and inserted in the old translation, thus showing that what he added was deficient in the older version. My detractors must therefore learn either to receive altogether what they have in part admitted, or they must erase my translation and at the same time their own asterisks. For they must allow that those translators, who it is clear have left out numerous details, have erred in some points; especially in the book of Job, where, if you withdraw such passages as have been added and marked with asterisks, the greater part of the book will be cut away. This, at all events, will be so in Greek. On the other hand, previous to the publication of our recent translation with asterisks and obeli, about seven or eight hundred lines were missing in the Latin, so that the book, mutilated, torn, and disintegrated exhibits its deformity to those who publicly read it. The present translation follows no ancient translator, but will be found to reproduce now the exact words, now the meaning, now both together of the original Hebrew, Arabic, and occasionally the Syriac For an indirectness and a slipperiness attaches to the whole book, even in the Hebrew and, as orators say in Greek, it is tricked out with figures of speech, and while it say one thing, it does another; just as if you close your hand to hold an eel or a little muraena, the more you squeeze it, the sooner it escapes. I remember that in order to understand this volume, I paid a not inconsiderable sum for the services of a teacher, a native of Lydda, who was amongst the Hebrews reckoned to be in the front rank; whether I profited at all by his teaching, I do not know; of this one thing I am sure, that I could translate only that which I previously understood. Well, then, from the beginning of the book to the words of Job, the Hebrew version is in prose. Further, from the words of Job where he says, "May the day perish wherein I was born and the night in which it was said, a man-child is conceived," to the place where before the close of the book it is written "Therefore I blame myself and repent in dust and ashes," we have hexameter verses running in dactyl and spondee: and owing to the idiom of the language other feet are frequently introduced not containing the same number of syllables, but the same quantities. Sometimes, also, a sweet and musical rhythm is produced by the breaking up of the verses in accordance with the laws of metre, a fact better known to prosodists than to the ordinary reader. But from the aforesaid verse to the end of the book the small remaining section is a prose composition. And if it seem incredible to any one that the Hebrews really have metres, and that, whether we consider the Psalter or the Lamentations of Jeremiah, or almost all the songs of Scripture, they bear a resemblance to our Flaccus, and the Greek Pindar, and Alcaeus, and Sappho, let him read Philo, Josephus, Origen, Eusebius of Caesarea, and with the aid of their testimony he will find that I speak the truth. Wherefore, let my barking critics listen as I tell them that my motive in toiling at this book was not to censure the ancient translation, but that those passages in it which are obscure, or those which have been omitted, or at all events, through the fault of copyists have been corrupted, might have light thrown upon them by our translation; for we have some slight knowledge of Hebrew, and, as regards Latin, my life, almost from the cradle, has been spent in the company of grammarians, rhetoricians, and philosophers. But if, since the version of the Seventy was published, and even now, when the Gospel of Christ is beaming forth, the Jewish Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion, judaising heretics, have been welcomed amongst the Greeks—heretics, who, by their deceitful translation, have concealed many mysteries of salvation, and yet, in the Hexapla are found in the Churches and are expounded by churchmen; ought not I, a Christian, born of Christian parents, and who carry the standard of the cross on my brow, and am zealous to recover what is lost, to correct what is corrupt, and to disclose in pure and faithful language the mysteries of the Church, ought not I, let me, ask, much more to escape the reprobation of fastidious or malicious readers ? Let those who will keep the old books with their gold and silver letters on purple skins, or, to follow the ordinary phrase, in " uncial characters," loads of writing rather than manuscripts, if only they will leave for me and mine, our poor pages and copies which are less remarkable for beauty than for accuracy. I have toiled to translate both the Greek versions of the Seventy, and the Hebrew which is the basis of my own, into Latin. Let every one choose which he likes, and he will find out that what he objects to in me, is the result of sound learning, not of malice.


[Dedicated to Sophronius. about the year 392. Jerome had, while at Rome, made a translation of the Psalms from the LXX., which he had afterwards corrected by collation with the Hebrew text (see the Preface addressed to Paula and Eustochium, infra). His friend Sophronius, in quoting the Psalms to the Jews, was constantly met with the reply, "It does not so stand in the Hebrew." He, therefore, urged Jerome to translate them direct from the original. Jerome, in presenting the translation to his friend, records the intention which he had expressed of translating the new Latin version into Greek. This we know was done by Sophronius, not only for the Psalms, but also for the rest of the Vulgate and was valued by the Greeks (Apol. ii. 24, vol. iii. of this series, p. 515).]


[Dedicated to Chromatius and Heliodorus, A.D. 393. The Preface is important as showing the help given to Jerome by his friends, the rapidity of his work. and his view of the Apocryphal we give the two chief passages.]

It is well that my letter should couple those who are coupled in the episcopate; and that I should not separate on paper those who are bound in one by the law of Christ. I would have written the commentaries on Hosea, Amos, Zechariah, and the Kings, which you ask of me, if I had not been prevented by illness. You give me comfort by the supplies you send me; you support my secretaries and copyists, so that the efforts of all my powers may be given to you. And then all at once comes a thick crowd of people with all sorts of demands, as if it was just that I should neglect your hunger and work for others, or as if, in the matter of giving and receiving, I had a debt to any one but you. And so, though I am broken by a long illness, yet, not to be altogether silent and dumb amongst you this year, I have dedicated to you three days' work, that is to say, the translation of the three books of Solomon.

[After speaking of the books of the Wisdom of Solomon and Ecclesiasticus, which were sent at the same time, the Preface continues:]

As, then, the Church reads Judith, Tobit, and the books of Maccabees, but does not admit them among the canonical Scriptures, so let it read these two volumes for the edification of the people, not to give authority to doctrines of the Church. If any one is better pleased with the edition of the Seventy, there it is, long since corrected by me. For it is not our aim in producing the new to destroy the old. And yet if our friend reads carefully, he will find that our version is the more intelligible, for it has not turned sour by being poured three times over into different vessels, but has been drawn straight from the press, and stored in a clean jar, and has. thus preserved its own flavour.


[Addressed to Paula and Eustochium, about A.D. 393. This Preface speaks of Isaiah as using the polished diction natural to a man of rank and refinement, as an Evangelist more than a prophet, and a poet rather than a prose writer. He then reiterates his defence of his translation, saying that now, " The Jews can no longer scoff at our Churches because of the falsity of our Scriptures."]


[Short Prefaces without dedication, but probably addressed to Paula and Eustochium, about A.D. 393.]


[The Preface is interesting as showing the difficulties caused by the incorporation of apocryphal matter into this book, the fact that Theodotion's version, not the LXX., was read in the Churches, and that the book was reckoned by the Jews not among the prophets but among the Hagiographa. It was addressed to Paula and Eustochium about A.D. 392.]

The Septuagint version of Daniel the prophet is not read by the Churches of our Lord and Saviour. They use Theodotion's version, but how this came to pass I cannot tell. Whether it be that the language is Chaldee, which differs in certain peculiarities from our speech, and the Seventy were unwilling to follow those deviations in a translation; or that the book was published in the name of the Seventy, by some one or other not familiar with Chaldee, or if there be some other reason, I know not; this one thing I can affirm—that it differs widely from the original, and is rightly rejected. For we must bear in mind that Daniel and Ezra, the former especially, were written in Hebrew letters, but in the Chaldee language, as was one section of Jeremiah; and, further, that Job has much affinity with Arabic. As for myself, when, in my youth, after reading the flowery rhetoric of Quintilian and Tully, I entered on the vigorous study of this language, the expenditure of much time and energy barely enabled me to utter the puffing and hissing words; I seemed to be walking in a sort of underground chamber with a few scattered rays of light shining down upon me; and when at last I met with Daniel, such a sense of weariness came over me that, in a fit of despair, I could have counted all my former toil as useless. But there was a certain Hebrew who encouraged me, and was forever quoting for my benefit the saying that `'Persistent labour conquers all things "; and so, conscious that among Hebrews I was only a smatterer, I once more began to study Chaldee. And, to confess the truth, to this day I can read and understand Chaldee better than I can pronounce it. I say this to show you how hard it is to master the book of Daniel, which in Hebrew contains neither the history of Susanna, nor the hymn of the three youths, nor the fables of Bel and the Dragon, because, however, they are to be found everywhere, we have formed them into an appendix, prefixing to them an obelus, and thus making an end of them, so as not to seem to the uninformed to have cut off a large portion of the volume. I heard a certain Jewish teacher, when mocking at the history of Susanna, and saying that it was the fiction of some Greek or other, raise the same objection which Africanus brought against Origen—that these etymologies of schi'sai from schi^nos, and pri'sai from pri^nos, are to be traced to the Greek. To make the point clear to Latin readers: It is as if he were to say, playing upon the word ilex, illico pereas; or upon lentiscus, may the angel make a lentil of you, or may you perish non lente, or may you lentus (that is pliant or compliant) be led to death, or anything else suiting the name of the tree. Then he would captiously maintain that the three youths in the furnace of raging fire had leisure enough to amuse themselves with making poetry, and to summon all the elements in turn to praise God. Or what was there miraculous, he would say, or what indication of divine inspiration, in the slaying of the dragon with a lump of pitch, or in frustrating the schemes of the priests of Bel? Such deeds were more the results of an able man's forethought than of a prophetic spirit. But when he came to Habakkuk and read that be was carried from Judaea into Chaldaea to bring a dish of food to Daniel, he asked where we found an instance in the whole of the Old Testament of any saint with an ordinary body flying through the air, and in a quarter of an hour traversing vast tracts of country. And when one of us who was rather too ready to speak adduced the instance of Ezekiel, and said that he was transported from Chaldaea into Judaea, he derided the man and proved from the book itself that Ezekiel, in spirit, saw himself carried over. And he argued that even our own Apostle, being an accomplished man and one who had been taught the law by Hebrews, had not dared to affirm that he was bodily rapt away, but had said: "Whether in the body, or out of the body, I know not; God knoweth." By these and similar arguments he used to refute the apocryphal fables in the Church's book. Leaving this for the reader to pronounce upon as he may think fit, I give warning that Daniel in Hebrew is not found among the prophets, but amongst the writers of the Hagiographa; for all Scripture is by them divided into three parts: the law, the Prophets, and the Hagiographa, which have respectively five, eight, and eleven books, a point which we cannot now discuss. But as to the objections which Porphyry raises against this prophet, or rather brings against the book, Methodius, Eusebius, and Apollinaris may be cited as witnesses, for they replied to his folly in many thousand lines of writing, whether with satisfaction to the curious reader I know not. Therefore, I beseech you, Paula and Eustochium, to pour out your supplications for me to the Lord, that so long as I am in this poor body, I may write something pleasing to you, useful to the Church, worthy of posterity. As for my contemporaries, I am indifferent to their opinions, for they pass from side to side as they are moved by love or hatred.


[This Preface, dedicated to Paula and Eustochium in A.D. 392, contains nothing of importance, merely mentioning the dates of a few of the prophets, and the fact that the Twelve Prophets were counted by the Hebrews as forming a single book.]


[There are three stages of Jerome's work of Scripture Translation. The first is during his stay at Rome, A,D. 382-385, when he translated only from the Greek—the New Testament from the Greek MSS., and the Book of Psalms from the LXX. The second is the period immediately after his settlement at Bethlehem, when he translated still from the LXX., but marked with obeli and asterisks the passages in which that version differed from the Hebrew; the third from A.D. 390-404, in which he translated directly from the Hebrew. The work of the second period is that which is now before us. The whole of the Old Testament was translated from the LXX. (see his "Apology," book ii. c. 24), but most of it was lost during his lifetime (see Letters CXXXIV. (end) and CXVI. 34 (in Augustin Letter, 62)). What remains is the Book of Job, the Psalms, Chronicles, the Books of Solomon. and Tobit and Judith.]


[This book was dedicated to Domnion and Rogatianus, about A.D. 358, Jerome points out the advantages he enjoyed, in living in Palestine, for obtaining correct information on matters illustrative of Scripture, especially the names of places. The MSS. of the LXX, on such points were so corrupt that occasionally three names were run into one, and "you would think that you had before you, not a heap of Hebrew names, but those of some foreign and Sarmatian tribe." Jerome had sent for a Jew, highly esteemed among his brethren, from Tiberias, and. after " examining him from top to toe," had, by his aid, emended the text and made the translation. But he had not the critical knowledge to guard him against supposing that the Books of Chronicles are " the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah," referred to in the Books of Kings.]


[This translation was dedicated to Paula and Eustochium, about the year 388. He complains that even the revision he was now making was the subject of many cavils. Men prefer ancient faults to new truths, and would rather have handsome copies than correct ones, but he boasts that "the blessed Job who, as far as the Latins are concerned, was till now lying amidst filth and swarming with the worms of error, is now whole and free from stain."]


[Jerome first undertook a revision of the Psalter with the help of the Septuagint about the year 383, when living at Rome. This revision, which obtained the name of the Roman Psalter " probably because it was made for the use of the Roman Church at the request of Damasus," was retained until the pontificate of Pius V. (A.D. 1566). Before long " the old error prevailed over the new correction," the faults of the old version crept in again through the negligence of copyists; and at the request of Paula and Eustochium, Jerome commenced a new and more thorough revision. The exact date is not known, the work was in all probability done at Bethlehem in the years 387 and 388. This edition, which soon became popular, was introduced by Gregory of Tours into the services of the Church of France, and thus obtained the name of the Gallican Psalter. In 1566 it superseded the Roman, in all churches except those of the Vatican, Milan, and St. Mark's, Venice."

Long ago, when I was living at Rome, I revised the Psalter, and corrected it in a great measure, though but cursorily, in accordance with the Septuagint version. You now find it, Paula and Eustochiutn, again corrupted through the fault of copyists, and realise the fact that ancient error is more powerful than modern correction; and you therefore urge me, as it were, to cross—plough the land which has already been broken up, and, by means of the transverse furrows, to root out the thorns which are beginning to spring again; it is only right, you say, that rank and noxious growths should be cut down as often as they appear. And so I issue my customary admonition by way of preface both to you, for whom it happens that I am undertaking the labour, and to those persons who desire to have copies such as I describe. Pray see that what I have carefully revised be transcribed with similar painstaking care. Every reader can observe for himself where there is placed either a horizontal line or mark issuing from the centre, that is, either an obelus (t) or an asterisk (*). And wherever be sees the former, he is to understand that between this mark and the two stops (:) which I have introduced, the Septuagint translation contains superfluous matter. But where he sees the asterisk (*), an addition to the Hebrew books is indicated, which also goes as far as the two stops.


[This is addressed to Paula and Eustochium. Jerome describes the numerous emendations he has had to make in what was then the received Latin text, but says he has not found the same necessity in dealing with Ecclesiasticus. He adds, " All I aim at is to give you a revised edition of the Canonical Scriptures, and to employ my Latin on what is certain rather than on what is doubtful."]


[The Preface is to Chromatius and Heliodorus. It recognizes that the books are apocryphal. After his usual complaints of " the Pharisees " who impugned his translations, he says: " Inasmuch as the Chaldee is closely allied to the Hebrew, I procured the help of most skillful speaker of both languages I could find and gave to the subject one day's hasty labour, my method being to explain in Latin, with the aid of a secretary, whatever an interpreter expressed to me in Hebrew words."

As to Judith, he notes that the Council of Nicaea had, contrary to the Hebrew tradition, included it in the Canon of Scripture, and this, with his friends' requests, had induced him to undertake the labour of emendation and translation.]


[The extant commentaries by Jerome on the books of Holy Scripture may be arranged thus, chronological sequence being observed as far as possible: A. New Testament: The Epistles to Philemon, Galatians, Ephesians, Titus. A.D. 387. Origen on St. Luke. A.D. 389, St. Matthew. A.D. 398. B. Old Testament: Ecclesiastes A.D. 388. 1. The Twelve Minor Prophets: Nahum, Michah, Zephaniah, Haggai, Habakkuk. A.D. 392. Jonah, Begun three years after the foregoing (Preface), Finished between A.D. 395 and A.D. 397. Obadiah. A.D. 403. Zechariah, Malachi, Hosea, Joel, Amos. Finished by A,D. 406. 2. The Four Greater Prophets: Daniel. A.D. 407. Isaiah A.D. 408-410. Ezekiel. A.D 410-414, Jeremiah. Commenced after the death of Eustochium in A.D, 418. The commentary on this book, which stops short at chapter xxxii., was therefore written in A.D. 419, the year which intervened between Eustochium's death and Jerome's own,

We have thought it best to give the Prefaces as in those to the Vulgate, in the order of the books as they stand in our Bible, not in the order in which they were written.]


[The Preface, addressed to Eusebius of Cremona, was written A.D. 398. Eusebius was at this time starting for Rome, and he was charged to give a copy of this Commentary to Principia, the friend of Marcella, for whom he had been unable through sickness to write on. the Song of Songs as he had wished. Jerome begins by distinguishing the Canonical from the Apocryphal Gospels quoting the words of St. Luke, that many had taken in hand to write the life of Christ. He gives his view of the origin of the Gospels as follows:]

The first evangelist is Matthew, the publican, who was surnamed Levi. He published his Gospel in Judaea in the Hebrew language, chiefly for the sake of Jewish believers in Christ, who adhered in vain to the shadow of the law, although the substance of the Gospel had come. The second is Mark, the amanuensis of the Apostle Peter, and first bishop of the Church of Alexandria. He did not himself see our Lord and Saviour, but he related the matter of his Master's preaching with more regard to minute detail than to historical sequence. The third is Luke, the physician, by birth a native of Antioch, in Syria, whose praise is in the Gospel. He was himself a disciple of the Apostle Paul, and composed his book in Achaia and Bceotia. He thoroughly investigates certain particulars and, as he himself confesses in the preface, describes what he had heard rather than what he had seen. The last is John, the Apostle and Evangelist, whom Jesus loved most, who, reclining on the Lord's bosom, drank the purest streams of doctrine, and was the only one thought worthy of the words from the cross, " Behold thy mother." When he was in Asia, at the time when the seeds of heresy were springing up (I refer to Cerinthus, Ebion, and the rest who say that Christ has not come in the flesh, whom he in his own epistle calls Antichrists, and whom the Apostle Paul frequently assails), he was urged by almost all the bishops of Asia then living, and by deputations from many Churches to write more profoundly concerning the divinity of the Saviour, and to break through all obstacles so as to attain to the very Word of God (if I may so speak) with a boldness as successful as it appears audacious. Ecclesiastical history relates that, when he was urged by the brethren to write, he replied that he would do so if a general fast were proclaimed and all would offer up prayer to God; and when the fast was over, the narrative goes on to say, being filled with revelation, he burst into the heaven-sent Preface: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God: this was in the beginning with God."

[Jerome then applies the four symbolical figures of Ezekiel to the Gospels: the Man is Matthew, the Lion Mark, the Calf, Luke, "because he began with Zacharias the priest," and the Eagle, John. He then describes the works of his predecessors: Origen with his twenty-five volumes, Theophilus of Antioch, Hippolytus the martyr, Theodorus of Heraclea, Apollinaris of Laodicaea, Didymus of Alexandria, and of the Latins, Hilary, Victorinus, and Fortunatianus; from these last, he says, he had gained but little. He continues as follows:]

But you urge me to finish the composition in a fortnight, when Easter is now rapidly approaching, and the spring breezes are blowing; you do not consider when the shorthand writers are to take notes, when the sheets are to be written, when corrected, how long it takes to make a really accurate copy; and this is the more surprising, since you know that for the last three months I have been so ill that I am now hardly beginning to walk; and I could not adequately perform so great a task in so short a time. Therefore, neglecting the authority of ancient writers, since I have no opportunity of reading or following them, I have confined myself to the brief exposition and translation of the narrative which you particularly requested; and I have sometimes thrown in a few of the flowers of the spiritual interpretation, while I reserve the perfect work for a future day.


[Addressed to Paula and Eustochium, A.D. 388.]

A few days ago you told me that you had read some commentaries on Matthew and Luke, of which one was equally dull in perception and expression, the other frivolous in expression, sleepy in sense. Accordingly you requested me to translate, without regarding such rubbish, our Adamantius' thirty-nine "homilies " on Luke, just as they are found in the original Greek; I replied that it was an irksome task and a mental torment to write, as Cicero phrases it, with another man's heart not one's own; but yet I will undertake it, as your requests reach no higher than this. The demand which the sainted Blesilla once made, at Rome, that I should translate into our language his twenty-five volumes on Matthew, five on Luke, and thirty-two on John is beyond my powers, my leisure, and my energy. You see what weight your influence and wishes have with me. I have laid aside for a time my books on Hebrew Questions because you think my labour will not be in vain, and turn to the translation of these commentaries, which, good or bad, are his work and not mine. I do this all the more readily because I hear on the left of me the raven—that ominous bird—croaking and mocking in an extraordinary way at the colours of all the other birds, though he himself is nothing if not a bird of gloom. And so, before he change his note, I confess that in these treatises Origen is like a boy amusing himself with the dice-box; there is a wide difference between his mature efforts and the serious studies of his old age. If my proposal meet with your approbation, if I am still able to undertake the task, and if the Lord grant me opportunity to translate them into Latin after completing the work I have now deferred, you will then be able to see—aye, and all who speak Latin will learn through you—how much good they knew not, and how much they have now begun to know. Besides this, I have arranged to send you shortly the Commentaries of Hilary, that master of eloquence, and of the blessed martyr Victorinus, on the Gospel of Matthew. Their style is different, but the grace of the Spirit which wrought in them is one. These will give you some idea of the study which our Latins also have, in former days, bestowed upon the Holy Scriptures.


[The Commentary is in three books, with full Prefaces.

Book I., Ch. i. 1 - iii. 9: Addressed to Paula and Eustochium, A.D. 387.

The Preface to this book begins with a striking description of the noble Roman lady Albina, which is as follows:]

Only a few days have elapsed since, having finished my exposition of the Epistle of Paul to Philemon, I had passed to Galatians, turning my course backwards and passing over many intervening subjects. But all at once letters unexpectedly arrived from Rome with the news that the venerable Albina has been recalled to the presence of the Lord, and that the saintly Marcella, bereft of the company of her mother, demands more than ever such solace as you can give, my dear Paula and Eustochium. This for the present is impossible on account of the great distance to be traversed by sea and land, and I could, therefore, wish to apply to the wound so suddenly inflicted at least the healing virtue of Scripture. I know full well her zeal and faith; I know how brightly the fire burns in her bosom, how she rises superior to her sex, and soars so far above human nature itself, that she crosses the Red Sea of this world, sounding the loud timbrel of the inspired volumes. Certainly, when I was at Rome, she never saw me for ever so short a time without putting some question to me respecting the Scriptures, and she did not, like the Pythagoreans, accept the " Ipse dixit " of her teacher, nor did authority, unsupported by the verdict of reason, influence her; but she tested all things, and weighed the whole matter so sagaciously that I perceived I had not a disciple so much as a judge. And so, believing that my labours would be most acceptable to her who is at a distance, and profitable for you who are with me here, I will approach a work unattempted by any writers in our language before me, and which scarcely any of the Greeks themselves have handled in a manner worthy of the dignity of the subject.

[Jerome then speaks of Victorinus, who had published a commentary on St. Paul, but "was busily engaged with secular literature and knew nothing of the Scriptures," and of the great Greek writers, Origen, Didymus, and Appolinaris, Eusebius of Emesa, and Theodorus of Heraclea, and says he has plucked flowers out of their gardens, so that the Commentary is more theirs than his. The expository part of the Preface is chiefly remarkable as giving the view of St. Paul's rebuke of St. Peter in Galatians ii., which occasioned the controversy between Jerome and Augustin. Jerome says:]

Paul does not go straight to the point, but is like a man walking in secret passages: his object is to exhibit Peter as doing what was expedient for the people of the circumcision committed to him, since, if a too sudden revolt took place from their ancient mode of life, they might be offended and not believe in the Cross; he wished, moreover, to show, inasmuch as the evangelisation of the Gentiles had been entrusted to himself, that he had justice on his side in defending as true that which another only pretended was a dispensation. That wretch Porphyry Bataneotes by no means understood this, and, therefore, in the first book of the work which he wrote against us, he raised the objection that Peter was rebuked by Paul for not walking uprightly as an evangelical teacher. His desire was to brand the former with error and the latter with impudence, and to bring against us as a body the charge of erroneous notions and false doctrine, on the ground that the leaders of the Churches are at variance among themselves.

[In the Preface to Book II. Jerome describes the origin of the Galatians as a Gaulish tribe settled in Asia, but he takes them as slow of understanding, and says that the Gauls still preserve this character, just as the Roman Church preserves the character for which it was praised by St. Paul, for it still has crowds frequenting its churches and the tombs of its martyrs, and " nowhere else does the Amen resound so loudly, like spiritual thunder, and shake the temples of the idols"; and similarly the traits of the churches of Corinth and Thessalonica are still preserved; in the first, the looseness of behaviour and of doctrine, and the conceit of worldly knowledge, in the second, the love of the brethren side by side with the disorderly conduct of busybodies. And he speaks of the condition of Galatia in his own day as follows:]

Any one who has seen by how many schisms Ancyra, the metropolis of Galatia, is rent and torn, and by how many differences and false doctrines the place is debauched, knows this as well as I do. I say nothing of Cataphrygians, Ophites, Borborites, and Manichaeans; for these are familiar names of human woe. Who ever heard of Passaloryncitae, and Ascodrobi, and Artotyritae, and other portents—I can hardly call them names—in any part of the Roman Empire? The traces of the ancient foolishness remain to this day. One remark I must make, and so fulfil the promise with which I started. While the Galatians, in common with the whole East, speak Greek, their own language is almost identical with that of the Treviri; and if through contact with the Greek they have acquired a few corruptions, it is a matter of no moment. The Africans have to some extent changed the Phenician language, and Latin itself is daily undergoing changes through differences of place and time.

[The Preface to Book III. opens with the following passage. describing, in contrast with his own simple exposition, the arts of the preachers of his day.]

We are now busily occupied with our third book on Galatians, and, my friends, Paula and Eustochium, we are well aware of our weakness, and are conscious that our slender ability flows in but a small stream and makes little roar and rattle. For these are the qualities (to such a pass have we come) which are now expected even in the Churches; the simplicity and purity of apostolic language is neglected; we meet as if we were in the Athenaeum, or the lecture rooms, to kindle the applause of the bystanders; what is now required is a discourse painted and tricked out with spurious rhetorical skill, and which, like a strumpet in the streets, does not aim at instructing the public, but at winning their favour; like a psaltery or a sweet-sounding lute, it must soothe the ears of the audience; and the passage of the prophet Ezekiel is suitable for our times, where the Lord says to him, "Thou art become unto them as the sound of a pleasant lute which is well made, for they hear thy words but do them not."

[Jerome then speaks of the composition of his commentaries as follows:]

How far I have profited by my unflagging study of Hebrew I leave to others to decide; what I have lost in my own language, I can tell In addition to this, on account of the weakness of my eyes and bodily infirmity generally,, I do not write with my own hand; and I cannot make up for my slowness of utterance by greater pains and diligence, as is said to have been the case with Virgil, of whom it is related that he treated his books as a bear treats her cubs, and licked them into shape. I must summon a secretary, and either say whatever comes uppermost; or, if I wish to think a little and hope to produce something superior, my helper silently reproves me, clenches his fist, wrinkles his brow, and plainly declares by his whole bearing that he has come for nothing.

[He then points out how the Scriptures have dispossessed the great writers of the pre-Christian world.]

How few there are who now read Aristotle. How many are there who know the books, or even the name of Plato? You may find here and there a few old men, who have nothing else to do, who study them in a corner. But the whole world speaks the language of our Christian peasants and fishermen, the whole world re-echoes their words. And so their simple words—must be set forth with simplicity of style; for the word simple applies to their words, not their meaning. But if, in response to your prayers, I could, in expounding their epistles, have the same spirit which they had—when they dictated them, you would then see in the Apostles as much majesty and breadth of true wisdom as there is arrogance and vanity in the learned men of the world. To make a brief confession of the secrets of my heart, I should not like any one who wished to understand the Apostle to find a difficulty in understanding my writings, and so be compelled to find some one to interpret the interpreter.


[This Commentary was specially prized by. Jerome as exhibiting his true views (Letter LXXXIV. 2), and they became in consequence one of the chief subjects of controversy between him and Rufinus, who traced in them not unjustly, the influence of Origen. It was written immediately after that on the Epistle to the Galatians, in A.D. 387, and, like that, addressed to Paula and Eustochium. In the Preface to Book i. Jerome defends himself against various accusations. He declares that he has been, in the main, his own instructor, but yet that he has constantly consulted others as to Scriptural difficulties, and that he had, not long before, been to Alexandria to consult Didymus. "I questioned him about everything which was not clear to me in the whole range of Scripture." As to his indebtedness to Origen, he speaks as follows, certainly not blaming his doctrines: "I remark in the Prefaces, for your information, that Origen composed three volumes on this Epistle, and I have partly followed him. Apollinaris and Didymus also published some commentaries, and. though we have gleaned a few things from them, we have added or omitted such as we thought fit. The studious reader will, therefore, understand at the outset that this work is partly my own, and that I am in part indebted to others."

The Preface to Books ii. and iii. is short. It speaks in praise of Marcella, who had invited him to his task, and declares that he in his monastery could not accomplish as much as that noble woman amidst the cares of her household. "I beseech you," he says, "to bear in mind that the language of this publication has not been long thought over or highly polished. In revealing the mysteries of Scripture I use almost the language of the street, and sometimes get through a thousand lines a day, in order that the explanation of the Apostle which I have begun may be completed with the aid of the prayers of Paul himself, whose Epistles I am endeavouring to explain."]


[Written for Paula and Eustochium, A.D. 387. The Preface is a defence of the genuineness of the Epistle against those who thought its subject beneath the dignity of inspiration. " There are many degrees of inspiration," Jerome says, " though in Christ alone it is seen in its fulness." Many of the other Epistles touch upon small affairs of life, like the cloak left at 1roas. To suppose that common life is separate from God is Manichaeanism. Jerome mentions that Marcion, who altered many of the Epistles, did not touch that to Philemon; and brevity in a document which has in it so much of the beauty of the Gospel is a mark of its inspiration.]


[Addressed to Paula and Eustochium, A.D. 387. The Preface speaks of the rejection of the Epistle by Marcion and Basilides, its acceptance by Tatius, but without assigning reasons. It ought, Jerome says, to be of special interest to Paula and Eustochium, as being written from Nicopolis, near Actium, where their property lay.]


[The Commentary in eighteen books, each with its Preface. It was written in the years 404-410, and addressed to Eustochium alone, her mother Paula having died in 404.

The Preface to Book i. touches generally upon the character and contents of Isaiah, asserting that many of the prophecies are directly applicable to Christ, and that the nations who are dealt with have a spiritual meaning. I hose to the following books mostly give a short statement of the contents of the chapters commented on, and entreat the players of Eustocbium for the work. The Fifth Book (or chapters xiii. to xxiii.) had been published before by itself, at the instance of a bishop named Amabilis, but he says he must add the metaphorical and spiritual meaning of the Visions of the various nations, which is done in Books vi. and vii. The Preface to Book x. contains a bitter allusion to Rufinus, "the Scorpion, a dumb and poisonous brute still grumbling over my former reply," and speaks of Pammachius as joining in the request for the continuation of the Commentaries.

The Preface to Book xi. intimates that his commentary upon Daniel, which expounded the statue with feet of iron and clay as the Roman Empire, and announced its fall, had been known at the court and resented by Stilicho, but that all danger from that source had been removed by the judgment of God, that is, through the death of Stilicho by the command of his son-in- law Honorius.

The Preface to Book xiii. records a severe illness which had stopped his work, though he was restored to health suddenly; and that to Book xiv. thanks Eustochium for her kind offices during this illness. The remaining Prefaces, though they have occasionally some interest in the history of the interpretation of Scripture, need not delay us.]


[The Commentary on Jeremiah is in six books; but Jerome did not live to finish it. It was written between the years 317 and 319, but only extends to chapter xxxii. It was dedicated to Eusebius of Cremona. The Prefaces, which are full of vigour, contain many allusions to the events and controversies of the last years of Jerome's life. In the Preface to Book i., after speaking of the Book of Daniel and the apocryphal Letter of Jeremiah as not belonging to the prophet's writings, he continues:]

I pay little heed to the ravings of disparaging critics who revile not only my words, but the very syllables of my words, and suppose they give evidence of some little knowledge if they discredit another man's work, as was exemplified in that ignorant traducer who lately broke out, and thought it worth his while to censure my commentaries on Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians. He does not understand the rules of commenting (for he is more asleep than awake and seems utterly dazed), and is not aware that in our books we give the opinions of many different writers, the authors' names being either expressed or understood, so that it is open to the reader to decide which he may prefer to adopt; although I must add that, in my Preface to the First Book of that work, I gave fair notice that my remarks would be partly my own, partly those of other' commentators, and that thus the commentary would be the work conjointly of the ancient writers and of myself. Grunnius, his precursor, overlooked the same fact, and once upon a time did his best to cavil. I replied to him in two books, and there I cleared away the objections which he adduced in his own name, though the real traducer was some one else; to say nothing of my treatises against Jovinianus where, you may remember, I show that he (Jovinianus) laments that virginity is preferred to marriage, single marriage to digamy, digamy to polygamy. The stupid labouring under his load of Scotch porridge, does not recollect that we said, in that very work, "I do not condemn the twice married, nor the thrice married, and, if it so be, the eight times married; I will go a step farther, and say that I welcome even a penitent whoremonger; for things equally lawful must be weighed in an even balance." Let him read the Apology for the same work which was directed against his master, and was received by Rome with acclamation many years ago. He will then observe that his revilings are but the echoes of other men's voices, and that his ignorance is so deep that even his abuse is not his own, but that he employs against us the ravings of foes long since dead and buried.

[The Preface to Book ii. is short and contains nothing of special importance. In that to Book iii. Jerome declares that he will, like Ulysses with the Sirens, close his ears to the adversary. The devil, who once spoke through Jovinianus, "now barks through the hound of Albion (Pelagius), who is like a mountain of fat, and whose fury is more in his heels than in his teeth; for his offspring is among the Scots, in the neighbourhood of Britain; and, according to the fables of the poet, he must, like Cerberus, be smitten to death with a spiritual club, that, in company with his master Pluto, he may forever hold his peace.

In the Preface to Book iv. Jerome says he has been hindered in his work by the harassing of the Pelagian controversy. He regards Pelagius as reproducing the doctrines of impassibility and sinlessness taught by Pythagoras and Zeno, and revived by Origen, Rufinus, Evagrius Ponticus, and Jovinian. Their doctrines, he says, were promulgated chiefly in Sicily, Rhodes, and other islands; they were propagated secretly, and denied in public. They were full of malice, but were but dumb dogs, and were refuted in "certain writings," probably those of Augustin; but he declares his intention of writing against them, which he did in his anti-Pelagian Dialogue.

The Prefaces to Books v. and vi. contain nothing noteworthy.]


[The Commentary on Ezekiel is in fourteen Books. It was dedicated to Eustochium, and was written between the years 410 and 414. The Prefaces gain a special interest from their descriptions of the sack of Rome by Alaric and the consequent immigration into Palestine. We give several passages.

In Preface to Book i.]

Having completed the eighteen books of the exposition of Isaiah, I was very desirous, Eustochium, Christ's virgin, to go on to Ezekiel, in accordance with my frequent promises to you and your mother Paula, of saintly memory, and thus, as the saying is, put the finishing touches to the work on the prophets; but alas! intelligence was suddenly brought me of the death of Pammachius and Marcella, the siege of Rome, and the falling asleep of many of my brethren and sisters. I was so stupefied and dismayed that day and night I could think of nothing but the welfare of the community; it seemed as though I was sharing the captivity of the saints, and I could not open my lips until I knew something more definite; and all the while, full of anxiety, I was wavering between hope and despair, and was torturing myself with the misfortunes of other people. But when the bright light of all the world was put out, or, rather, when the Roman Empire was decapitated, and, to speak more correctly, the whole world perished in one city, "I became dumb and humbled myself, and kept silence from good words, but my grief broke out afresh, my heart glowed within me, and while I meditated the fire was kindled;" and I thought I ought not to disregard the saying, "An untimely story is like music in a time of grief." But seeing that you persist in making this request, and a wound, though deep, heals by degrees; and the scorpion lies beneath the ground with Enceladus and Porphyrion, and the many- headed Hydra has at length ceased to hiss at us; and since opportunity has been given me which I ought to use, not for replying to insidious heretics, but for devoting myself to the exposition of Scripture, I will resume my work upon the prophet Ezekiel.

[Book ii. has, instead of a Preface, merely a line calling the attention of Eustochium to its opening words.

The Preface to Book iii. has a noteworthy passage on the sack of Rome and its results.]

Who would believe that Rome, built up by the conquest of the whole world, had collapsed, that the mother of nations had become also their tomb; that the shores of the whole East, of Egypt, of Africa, which once belonged to the imperial city, were filled with the hosts of her men- servants and maid-servants, that we should every day be receiving in this holy Bethlehem men and women who once were noble and abounding in every kind of wealth but are now reduced to poverty? We cannot relieve these sufferers: all we can do is to sympathise with them, and unite our tears with theirs. The burden of this holy work was as much as we could carry; the sight of the wanderers. coming in crowds, caused us deep pain; and we therefore abandoned the exposition of Ezekiel, and almost all study, and were filled with a longing to turn the words of Scripture into action, and not to say holy things but to do them. Now, however, in response to your admonition, Eustochium, Christ's virgin, we resume the interrupted labour, and approach our third Book.

[The Prefaces to Books iv., v., and vi. contain nothing remarkable. The following is the important part of the Preface to Book vii.]

There is not a single hour, nor a single moment, in which we are not relieving crowds of brethren, and the quiet of the monastery has been changed into the bustle of a guest house. And so much is this the case that we must either close our doors, or abandon the study of the Scriptures on which we depend for keeping the doors open. And so, turning to profit, or rather stealing the hours of the nights, which, now that winter is approaching, begin to lengthen somewhat, I am endeavouring by the light of the lamp to dictate these comments, whatever they maybe worth, and am trying to mitigate with exposition the weariness of a mind which is a stranger to rest. I am not boasting, as some perhaps suspect, of the welcome given to the brethren, but I am simply confessing the causes of the delay. Who could boast when the flight of the people of the West, and the holy places, crowded as they are with penniless fugitives, naked and wounded, plainly reveal the ravages of the Barbarians? We cannot see what has occurred, without tears and moans. Who would have believed that mighty Rome, with its careless security of wealth, would be reduced to such extremities as to need shelter, food, and clothing? And yet, some are so hard-hearted and cruel that, instead of showing compassion, they break up the rags and bundles of the captives, and expect to find gold about those who are nothing than prisoners. In addition to this hindrance to my dictating, my eyes are growing dim with age and to some extent I share the suffering of the saintly Isaac: I am quite unable to go through the Hebrew books with such light as I have at night, for even in the full light of day they are hidden from my eyes owing to the smallness of the letters. In fact, it is only the voice of the brethren which enables me to master the commentaries of Greek writers.

[The Prefaces to Books viii. to xiv. contain nothing of special interest.]


[The Commentary on Daniel was dedicated to Pammachius and Marcella in the year 407. It is in a single book, and is aimed at the criticisms of Porphyry. who, like most modern critics, took the predictions in the Book of Daniel as relating to the time of Antiochus Epiphanes and the Maccabees, and written near that date. The Preface is very similar to that prefixed to the Vulgate translation of Daniel.]


[For the order and date of writing of these Commentaries see the Preface to Amos, Book iii., and the note there.]


[This Commentary was dedicated to Pammachius, A.D. 406 (sixth consulate of Arcadius—Preface to Amos, Book iii.). The Preface to Book i. is chiefly taken up with a discussion on Hosea's "wife of whoredoms." He takes the story as allegorical; it cannot be literal, for "God commands nothing but what is honourable, nor does he, by bidding men do disgraceful thins, make that conduct honourable which is disgraceful. Jerome then describes, as in former Prefaces, the chief Greek commentators, of whom Apollinaris and Origen had written very shortly on Hosea, Pierius at great length, but to little purpose; and says that he had himself obtained from Didymus of Alexandria that he should complete the Commentary of Origen. He had himself often judged independently, though with little knowledge of Hebrew, but he had been in earnest, while most scholars were "more concerned for their bellies than their hearts, and thought themselves learned if in the doctors' waiting rooms they could disparage other men's works."

In the Preface to Book ii. Jerome complains of his detractors, and appeals from the present favour of high-placed men to the posthumous authority of sound ability.

In Book iii. he claims Pammachius as his defender, though he fears the judgment of his great learning.]


[This Commentary also is addressed to Pammachius, A.D. 406. It is in one hook. It gives the order of the Twelve Prophets adopted by the LXX. and the Hebrew respectively, the Hebrew order being that now in use. It also gives the etymological meaning of their names.]


[In three books, addressed also to Pammachius, A.D. 406 (Preface to Amos, Book iii.). The Preface to Book i. merely gives a description of Tekoa, Amos' birthplace. That to Book if. speaks of old age, with its advantages for self-control and its trials in various infirmities, such as phlegm, dim eyesight, loosened teeth, colic, and gout. That to Book iii. contains the passage several times referred to for the order of these Commentaries, which is as follows:]

We have not discussed them in regular sequence from the first to the ninth, as they are read, but as we have been able, and in accordance with requests made to us. Nahum, Micah, Zephaniah, Haggai, I first addressed to Paula and Eustochium, her daughter, who are never weary; I next dedicated two books on Habakkuk to Chromatius, bishop of Aquileia; I then proceeded to explain, at your command, Pammachius, and after a long interval of silence, Obadiah and Jonah. In the present year, which bears in the calendar the name of the sixth consulate of Arcadius Augustus and Anitius Probus, I interpreted Malachi for Exsuperius, bishop of Toulouse, and Minervius and Alexander, monks of that city. Unable to refuse your request I immediately went back to the beginning of the volume, and expounded Hosea, Joel, and Amos. A severe sickness followed, and I showed my rashness in resuming the dictation of this work too hastily; and, whereas others hesitate to write and frequently correct their work, I entrusted mine to the fortune which attends those who employ a secretary, and hazarded my reputation for ability and orthodoxy; for, as I have often testified, I cannot endure the toil of writing with my own hand; and, in expounding the Holy Scriptures, what we want is not a polished style and oratorical flourishes, but learning and simple truth.


[Addressed to Pammachius A.D. 403. The Preface records how in early youth (some thirty years before), he had attempted an allegorical commentary of Obadiah, of which he was now ashamed, though it has lately been praised by a youth of similar years.]


[This was addressed to Chromatius, but belongs to the year 395. It is said in the Preface to be three years after the commentary on Micah, Nahum, etc. The Preface merely touches on the various places of Scripture in which Jonah is named.]


[Addressed to Paula and Eustochium. A.D. 392. It is in two books. In the Preface to Book ii., Jerome vindicates himself against the charge of making mere compilations from Origen. He confesses, however, his great admiration for him. "What they consider a reproach," he says, "I regard as the highest praise. since I desire to imitate him who, I doubt not, is acceptable to all wise men, and to you."]


[Also to Paula and Eustochium, A.D. 392. The Preface contains little of importance. Jerome mentions that the village of Elkosh, Nahum's birthplace, was pointed out to him by a guide in Galilee.]


[Addressed to Chromatius, A.D. 392. The commentary is in two books. The Preface to Book i. is long, but merely describes the contents of the book. That to Book if. mentions among his adversaries, "The Serpent, and Sardanapalus, whose character is worse than his name"—expressions which have been referred to Rufinus; but the enmity between Jerome and Rufinus had not broken out in 392.]


[Addressed to Paula and Eustochium, A.D. 392. In the Preface Jerome defends himself for writing for women, bringing many examples from Scripture and from classical writers to show the capacity of women.]


[Also to Paula and Eustochium, A.D. 392. The preface merely describes the occasion of the book, but says that Haggai's prophecy was contemporary with the reign of Tarquinius Superbus (B.C. 535-510).]


[Addressed to Exsuperius, bishop of Toulouse, A.D. 406, in three books, and sent, "in the closing days of autumn, by the monk, Sisinnius, who had been sent with presents for the poor saints at Jerusalem, and was hastening to Egypt on a similar errand." The Prefaces to the three books mention these facts, but have nothing in them of note which has not been said before.]


[Addressed, A.D. 406, to Minervius and Alexander, presbyters of the diocese of Toulouse. The Jews, the Preface says. believe Malachi to be a name for Ezra. Origen and his followers believe that (according to his name) he was an angel. But we reject this view altogether, lest we be compelled to accept the doctrine of the fall of souls from heaven.]

Taken from "The Early Church Fathers and Other Works" originally published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. in English in Edinburgh, Scotland, beginning in 1867. (PNPF II/VI, Schaff and Wace). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.

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